A bunch of you might know Rob Gray from over at his Hellbilly Hollywood blog. Rob was one the first people to support my blog and and has turned me on to bunches of cool music & movies. It seems like he's always got something going on and one of his projects is his band Vamp Star & they've just released their 3rd (!!) album FASCINATION.
The music itself is sort hard to classify (in a VERY GOOD way) and they describe themselves over on their Facebook page as "an experimental band who blends disco, hard rock, world music, and 70s style B-movie music". As per the album title its a "fascinating" listen, as swirling about here is everything they describe, although on this release the 70's exploitation soundtrack feel really comes to the fore front. Plus there's a fun sense of humor running throughout, along with an obvious love, knowledge & appreciation of 70's drive-in/horror movie history (complete with a very cool homage to Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE). Part of the fun here is actually listening and picking out all the little things lurking around.
It set up as sort of concept album (but don't let this deter you - as this isn't some bloated butt numb a thon) and tells the story of former disco singer Captain Groovy and his downward spiral in to the sleazy underbelly of the 1970's. Fun stuff for sure and here's Rob to fill us in with a little more background & stuff.
There's bunches of movie references in FASCINATION. Did you watch anything specifically before recording or was this just a lifetime of B movie knowledge put to work ?
Rob - A little bit of both really. The 1970s as a whole is really the driving force for much of what I do. From my music to my novels, there are always elements of the 70s there. And of 70s pop-culture, it's really the movies that have influenced me the most. So that kind of slips into all that I do whether I mean it to or not. I knew when I started Fascination that at least half of it would be set in the 70s. So I just wanted to use pop culture references of the time, stuff that would seem relevant then.
This seems like the kind of project where there might have been other material written that didn't end up on the final album. Did you have a difficult time getting the album down to its finished length.
Rob - Not at all. Fascination was extremely planned out. I approached it much like I would a novel. It started with an outline of the story and plot points each song needed to hit. From there I took the plot points, or time periods for the Captain, and turned them into lyrics. So the story, album structure, and all the lyrics were written before a single note was recorded. But when writing the lyrics, I kind of had an idea of how I wanted each song to sound; or at very least what genre it would be in. When it finally came time to start actually writing the music, I had a strong idea of where I wanted each song to go. So Ali came in and we recorded one or two of the songs per session. I'd be like "I want it to sound like this" and he would work his magic on the guitar.
Without mentioning any names is Captain Groove based any anybody real, just a conglomeration of various personalities or is it entirely a work of fiction ?
Rob- . I think you summed it up with a conglomeration of various personalities. In writing, I kind of live by the motto "Write what you know". Though highly fictionalized, this has served me well in most of my novels. There are always little bits of reality and dramatized versions of real events in my stories. And band life and the mistakes that so many musicians make is something I know really well. So when it came to writing an album about a serial killer, I just filled in the "why" of it all with a concept I knew well.
As far as the clown element goes, the Captain isn't based on Gacy or anything like that. He wasn't really a serial killer clown. More so a serial killer magician. The clown part of the story was to show that the Captain was willing to do anything to keep even an ounce of fame. Even becoming a TV clown, and from there a birthday party clown.
On your live dates are you playing the entire album in order ? It seems like as the songs do stand alone, but is pretty cool they way they flow together and tell a story.
Rob- That is something I've been thinking about a lot. I do think it would be really cool to that at least once. But the logistics would be difficult. Several of the songs on the album weren't written with the intention of playing live. They were written for the sake of the concept. And said songs have more parts than we have members. Having synthetic instruments like drums and keys on a backing track is fine, it's something we have always done, but we agreed to never have guitars or vocals anything but live. We had to do some of that in the early days of VS and it was kinda crappy.
The Captain's story ends kind of opened ended. Can we expect an 80's sequel to continue his story ?Rob - The time frame of it all isn't overly clear in the lyrics themselves. That part of the story, as well as some little extra plot points, will be filled in with the liner notes of the CD itself. Sorry digital folks. But the story actually starts in the 70s with the first few tracks. Catch You on the Flip Side takes place on NYE 1979. It moves through the 80s in Clown Clown Clownin' Around and the last few tracks take place in the early 90s.
As for a sequel, this will be spoilery so don't read this if you haven't heard the album yet,
But originally, the ending line "then it all just fades to black" was going to end with a gunshot, then the album would end. But somewhere along the way I scraped that. I don't remember why. But no, the Captain dies at the end. So I think the story is over. But if I did continue it, it wouldn't be a follow up. It would have to be a side story or prequel.
Thanks Rob and good luck with this and hope to hear more Vamp Star.
Vamp Star's blog is here and plus they have a Facebook presence as well. Check them out !